Friday, 29 April 2016

New Fellows for 2016

Today the Royal Society announced the appointment of its 2016 intake of Fellows (who don't have to be fellows).  The announcement is here.  I can't claim to be familiar with many of them, but for the topic of this blog, it's noteworthy that the nuclear engineer Sue Ion is now (Dame) Sue Ion FRS.  A few years ago she was tasked with writing a report about the state of nuclear science in the UK and I think she did a good job in highlighting the parlous state of the support given by the funding councils to nuclear physics in particular (I blogged about it back in 2010)  So, congratulations Sue, along with the other 49 new Fellows.  That's Sue in the picture associated with this post, courtesy of the Royal Society website.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Sir Denys Wilkinson FRS 1922–2016

I heard the news yesterday that Sir Denys Wilkinson died on 22nd April 2016, aged 93.  I can't (since I'm not qualified to) give much of a general obituary here.  They will presumably appear elsewhere in due course, written by those that knew him personally.  Though I met him once or twice at conferences when I was a graduate student, I know Denys more as one of the big names in UK nuclear physics, as well as through his rising up the ranks of research and higher education administration.  He was vice-chancellor of the University of Sussex between 1976 and 1987.  Preceding that, he was professor at the University of Oxford, and the building that used to be called the Nuclear and Particle Physics building during my time there is now called the Denys Wilkinson Building.  

Though I don't suppose he was very active at the Royal Society in recent years, he was a Fellow there, and one of the last remaining fellows whose science background was in nuclear physics.  

Friday, 8 April 2016

Spot The Difference #6

I wonder if readers have ever noticed the similarity between University of Surrey physicist Jim Al-Khalili and Holby City physician Art Malik?


Thursday, 7 April 2016

The kids here still respect the college dean

A friend of mine posted a video of Merle Haggard singing Okie From Muskogee yesterday, on Twitter.  I like the song, and I even once sang it at karaoke when an undergraduate, as I remember.  Only later did I realise that the Twitter post was occasioned by Merle Haggard's death.  Great song, Merle.  RIP.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Signed Refrigerators

In the coffee room of the nuclear physics building here at ANU, there is a tradition that when staff leave, they host a leaving party, filling the refrigerator up with beer, thereby earning the right to sign the fridge door.  The tradition has been going on so long that the oldest fridge door is now mounted for display on the wall.  If you click on the picture you can see an enlarged version, with names and dates. 

Monday, 21 March 2016

How to spot a nuclear physics building

I'm visiting a student on placement in Canberra today.  I've not been to Australia before, but the nuclear physics building at the Australian National University looks much like a nuclear physics building elsewhere.  At least, as long as there is a tandem accelerator which needs to be housed.  It's a useful landmark to help navigate to the building.  

I was given a guided tour by our student Jess and one of her local supervisors, Ed, who also happens to have once been one of our placements students, some years ago (albeit in the US).  In the picture is me, with Jess (photo taken by Ed).  There's also a picture there taken down the beam line, looking quite high-tech.

Of the things I've noticed so far, the brightness of the light is conspicuous.  I'm used to living about 15ยบ further away from the equator than this, and it does make a difference to how bright the light is in the day, and how it lights up the scenery.  Also, my body has noticed the eleven hour time difference, which is a little bit gruelling.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Jobs at Surrey

I'm pleased to be able to announce that we, at the University of Surrey, have two permanent positions available in the Physics Department:  One in theoretical nuclear physics, and one in experimental nuclear physics.  The jobs will appear online at probably on Monday (edit:  It is at  For now, here is the text that will appear in the advert.  Please circulate widely!

University of Surrey
Department of Physics

Lecturer in Experimental Nuclear Physics
Lecturer/Senior Lecturer in Theoretical Nuclear Physics

Salary from £38,896 - £57,047 per annum (subject to experience and qualifications)

The Department of Physics is seeking to strengthen its successful scientific programme by appointing two new academic posts in Experimental and Theoretical Nuclear Physics. This exciting new initiative ties in with the emergence of the next generation of radioactive beam facilities such as FAIR, FRIB, HIE-ISOLDE and RIKEN that offer a host of fresh opportunities across the field of nuclear physics. In particular, Surrey is committed to seizing the new experimental opportunities relating to nuclear structure and nuclear astrophysics research and providing leadership in theoretical understanding, including innovative developments in nuclear reaction theory.

The Surrey Nuclear Physics Group is strongly engaged in research internationally and has a long-standing reputation as a world-leader in the field. The Group leads experimental projects at a wide range of facilities spanning the areas of spectroscopy, transfer reactions and nuclear astrophysics. Theoretical research at Surrey is at the frontiers of reaction theory, ab initio calculations, mean-field calculations and the theory of nuclear matter. Most recently, close links with the UK’s National Physical Laboratory have allowed the Group to extend the scope of its research in radiation sensing and radionuclide metrology. The two new academic staff members will be expected to develop independent research profiles that complement and extend current research strengths and activities, and are aligned with the overall scientific goals of the Group. As part of the written application, candidates should submit a brief research proposal (maximum 2 pages) that describes a vision for their research programme, highlighting both initial interests and possible longer-term aims. Alongside their research activities, the successful applicants will join an enthusiastic team of physics academics with a commitment to excellence in undergraduate and postgraduate teaching.

For general information about academic posts in the Department of Physics applicants should address queries to Professor Stephen Sweeney, Head of Department ( Informal enquiries regarding the experimental nuclear physics position should be addressed to Prof. Wilton Catford (, while enquiries regarding the theory position can be addressed to Dr. Paul Stevenson ( All enquiries will be handled strictly in confidence. For further information about the Department of Physics at Surrey visit Please direct questions related to the application procedure to Ms Kate Sheen (, tel: +44 (0)1483 686126). Reference letters will only be requested of shortlisted candidates. For further information about the University of Surrey, please visit We acknowledge, understand and embrace cultural diversity.